Rights groups condemn arrest of French journalist over defense reporting

PARIS (Reuters) - A French reporter was arrested and her home searched on Tuesday in connection with a report two years ago by online media outlet Disclose that said French intelligence was being misused by Egypt, the outlet and the reporter's lawyer said.

Rights groups condemned the arrest of reporter Ariane Lavrilleux, who authored the report that said French intelligence intended to track jihadist militants had been misused by Egypt to target smugglers on the Libyan border and kill civilians. Its publication prompted France's armed forces minister to call for an investigation.

Lavrilleux's lawyer, Virginie Marquet, said her client was being questioned by a judge and police officers from the French intelligence service DGSI as part of an investigation into compromising national security.

"It's a rather uncommon procedure," Marquet told Reuters. "It goes up a notch when it comes to coercive measures against journalists."

The DGSI did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Disclose, which had previously reported on other confidential dealings between Paris and Cairo, two years ago published dozens of classified documents which it said showed the misuse of intelligence provided to Egypt.

Egyptian government officials did not respond to requests for comment when the report was published.

The documents included purported messages from those involved alerting their superiors that their information was being misused for bombing civilians.

"We're very worried," said Katia Roux of Amnesty France. "To put in police custody a journalist for doing her job, moreover for revealing information of public interest, could be a threat to freedom of the press and confidentiality of sources."

Reporters Without Borders and other rights groups also released statements condemning the arrest.

(Reporting by Juliette Jabkhiro; Editing by Daniel Wallis)